Category Archives: Change

Broadening perspectives on markets, relationships and benefits in seafood trade: The role of Zanzibari women in small-scale fisheries

By Elizabeth Drury O’Neill and Beatrice Crona

E-mail: elizabeth.druryoneill@su.se

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Elizabeth Drury O’Neill conducts interviews at Mkokotoni, Zanzibar. Photo: E.D. O’Neill.

Market structures of small-scale “economically developing” country fisheries (SSF) have remained relatively under-examined in the academic literature and the work done has focused primarily on relations between fishers and traders. However, most studies have focused only on economic transactions and this has likely skewed our understanding of the interactions between people in SSF and the social and ecological outcomes they give rise to.

In an attempt to broaden the understanding of how market structures and trading relations benefit local fishery actors we conducted a study that examined the wider social system in which fish trade is embedded. Many local societies have evolved informal norms based on customs and reciprocities (e.g. gift giving, sharing of large catches) that have become intertwined with fishery trade. These exchanges are necessary for human well-being, providing additional sources of support to resource-poor households, which can be irreplaceable during shocks. The question is if these systems of exchange and benefits serve all equally?

The reef based small-scale fisheries of Unguja Island, Zanzibar are the focus of this study. Located approximately 40 km off mainland Tanzania (5°40′ 6°30′S) Zanzibar has a millennia old history of global trade, including slaves and spices and constitutes the center of the Swahili coast and culture. Like most of the Swahili coastline, it has a population highly dependent on fishing for both livelihoods and nutrition and is surrounded by a coastal environment dominated by coral reef, seagrass, sandy beach and mangrove ecosystems.

Gender emerges as a strong determinant of seafood trade and fishery participation. Men and women fulfill different roles in the Zanzibari fishery system, as seen in many SSF elsewhere. Women are predominately involved as traders rather than fishers, while men dominate resource extraction. Smaller or lower-value products are principally traded in the booming local market, either fresh, fried or dried. A growing export market largely targets small dried pelagics and the tourist industry demands fresh specimens of high-value species.

While tourism is a rapidly expanding market for fishery products, our study saw that women traders remain relatively unlinked to the tourist hotels, resorts and restaurants. They do not access these higher-value links and are largely confined to the lower ends of the value chain income spectrum. The fact that it is deemed inappropriate or unsuitable for a woman in Zanzibar to be linked to the tourism industry is one explanation for this.

Women in the rural sites run largely home-based businesses supplying the local villages with processed products, dried or fried. This is typical of women in many SSF, limited by the time they can devote to work outside the home. Travelling in and out to the central markets in Stone Town is costly both in terms of time and money. Male traders are much more linked to the central markets and have more fish marketing options, including selling from bicycles, to a greater variety of customers in town and to the tourist hotels and restaurants. Men therefore have access to the higher sales prices in Stone Town and at the same time the lower purchase prices at the rural landing sites. When based in the central areas female traders have no space inside the Darajani fish market, which is rented entirely by male retailers, and sell on the ground outside with other smaller-scale male traders. The sales by women traders, in general, are done through on-the-spot transactions rather than with a patron or predetermined customer, a typical informal contract-type relationship in SSF. This patron-client relationship can provide the clients with various credit, loan and support options, though tying them into sales. However, women do not appear to have access to, or use, this option in Unguja. Over half the male traders in the study sell through this method, marketing continuously to the same customer in exchange for support.

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Women in fish trading, Mfenisi. Photo: Elizabeth Drury O’Neill.

Seafood trade in Zanzibar, as in other SSF, runs deeper than simple economic arrangements and is embedded in an informal exchange network. Males and females appear to be installed differently into this network, where flows of assistance (i.e. material like food, money, equipment or service support, like processing, transporting, reciprocated between actors) pass between various actors in conjunction with sales. Female traders are less frequently involved in this reciprocal support exchange with fishers than their male counterparts, whom more commonly exchange cash, food, credit and discounts. However, women traders cooperate between themselves over a range of activities, in some sites more than males, which includes buying together, pooling products to sell, lending or borrowing money and selling products on each other’s behalf when necessary.

Women in fishing communities across the world appear to face barriers to higher-rent generating roles in the supply chain due to various cultural obstacles and conflicting household roles. Large-scale economically focused fisheries development has led to an increase in bulk purchases and wholesale trade, the construction of modern landing sites and market complexes, and more standardized formal sales activities in many places. This type of growth unfortunately has the potential to exclude the Zanzibari home-based traders, which it has already done in other SSF.

The role of women in SSF has been largely invisible to most observers and the Zanzibar harvest arena is dominated by men, with few fisherwomen appearing in any official statistics. Despite this, it is becoming increasingly common and acceptable for women to enter fish trade in Zanzibar. More women now trade seafood than ever before. However, the appearance and rise of the tourism sector in the seafood market has indirect effects on their ability to conduct their business. Already in 2002, ActionAid reported that fishermen no longer need to use women traders as much as before, since they now have the option of selling directly to the hotel industry. Our observations support this, with very few female urban traders linked directly to the fishers, buying mainly through auctions. As the tourism industry continues to grow and as fishery development focuses on further capacitating male fishers to go further offshore while promoting greater formalized economic actors in fishing and related activities this study emphasizes the grave potential for many value chain actors, especially female traders, to be vastly overlooked in such development scenarios.

The paper from this study can be found at this link.

Acknowledgments: This study was part of a SIDA funded project (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) aimed at understanding the role of middlemen in mediating interactions between the social and ecological components of small-scale fisheries systems. Project Number SWE-2012-104.

Women’s voices, gender equity champions and a gender lens all matter – converging messages from GAF6

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A Thai woman gets ready to process threadfin salmon for the market. Photo: Supaporn Anuchiracheeva, the Small-scale Fishers and Organic Fisheries Products Project.

In bold outline, the take home messages from the GAF6 full report – Engendering Security in Fisheries and Aquaculture – converge on the following: women’s voices and gender equity champions  can make a real difference; and a gender lens lets us see inequalities and how to remedy them. These points were woven through the 68 rich and varied presentations, panels, posters and workshops of GAF6. Read the full report here, see the take home messages below.

  • Participants were urged to focus on gender relationships, not simply roles, and on intersectionality, as women’s and men’s lives were interconnected and gender interacted with other systems in society, e.g., cultural, political and economic structures.
  • The 2014 Small-Scale Fisheries Voluntary Guidelines are opening up new policy space on gender equality. Yet, in implementing the Guidelines, women have been deterred from taking part in decision-making, are invisible in most fisheries statistics and their interests excluded from national policies – unless NGOs and women’s groups have advocated for inclusion. Even when women’s needs are recognized, money and expertise may not have been allocated. In a hopeful sign, some recent projects are committed to gender equality.
  • Aquaculture is gendered. Gender roles and relationships in aquaculture follow typical social patterns of ownership, rights and power. Unless they break out as entrepreneurs, women are positioned in small-scale, near-home, and low technology aquaculture, or as low-paid labour in medium and industrial scale operations. Nevertheless, small-scale household aquaculture can fulfill important subsistence roles and be improved to better satisfy food security and nutrition.
  • A persistent thread on fair livelihoods in fish value chains was that gender equality and equity must be fought for, and protected by active measures, rather than expecting it to happen through a sense of natural justice.
  • Using a gender lens brings deeper understanding of climate and disaster adaptation. Flexibility, versatility and agency are keys to people’s resilience. Gender-blind efforts to help people adapt should always be challenged.
  • Real progress in securing gender equality will not be achieved unless social norms are transformed.

Read the whole GAF6 report here – Link

Fisheries Thematic Symposium @ World Women’s Congress 2017

The World Women’s Congress 2017 (WWC) will be held in Florianopolisw, Brazil, July 30 to August 4 [see main Congress link).

cabecalho-enOne of the Thematic Symposia will be on fisheries. It is being coordinated by Maria do Rosário de Fátima Andrade Leitão (Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco), Maria Helena Santana Cruz (Universidade Federal de Sergipe).

Thematic Symposium 129: Transformations, connections, displacements of feminism regarding sex, work, educational formation and traditional communities (fisherwomen, fishermen, “quilombola” and indigenous communities, and family farmers)

Abstract: The proposal of this Thematic Group is to contribute to the academic discussion and establish dialogues about the diversity both in scientific and popular knowledge concerning the “Transformations, Connections, Displacements of Feminism: gender, work, educational formation, and traditional communities” especially with regard to sex and gender roles, work, educational formation and traditional communities from research results of different approaches. Thus, there would be an interaction from approaches and challenging topics in the field of Human Sciences established by Public Policies that could include Public Policies established by governmental and nongovernmental organizations that which take into account the diversities and their impact to the development of social gender role relations. That means, proposals addressing the feminist intersectionality (whose perspectives reject the separation between analytical categories and identities) and with analysis of the promotion of sustainable development with equity in power relations, their impact on the everyday experiences of the subjects, in the production of injustice, in the systemic social inequality on a multidimensional base that focuses on specific contexts. This scope would encompasses particularly scientific studies with analysis of the conditions of life in traditional communities. Consequently, it urge to study their unequal access to political actions and the space of women in communities of fisherwomen and fishermen, as well as in “quilombolas” and indigenous groups and family farmers; the equal participation of women and men at all levels of political decision-making processes in public and private spaces; the discussion of self-reflection and self-criticism in order to know their personal values and how they affect life itself and the relation with others. We expect to stand by people interested in an advanced knowledge about the dynamics and interdependence of social relations in the fight against the multiple and conjugated forms of oppression.

Keywords: Feminism, Gender, Work, Educational formation, Traditional communities.

Also see our page on the 2011 women in fisheries session at the 2011 World Women’s Congress (Ottawa) – Why the Coast Matters – link.

 

Building climate resilience in Laos by bringing in women

Lao women researchers. Photo: FishBio (Fisheries research, monitoring and conservation) http://fishbio.com/field-notes/population-dynamics/lao-women-in-fish-research

In other projects in Laos, women in Donexay village have become involved as researchers in the Nam Kading River of central Lao PDR. Photo and story: FISHBIO [Fisheries Research, Monitoring and Conservation] FISHBIO

Charlotte Moser worked among Lao fishers in the Sekong River basin that begins in Vietnam, traverses Lao PDR and flows into the Mekong in Cambodia. The project on which she worked, in Samakhixay and Saysettha districts of Attapeu Province in southern Laos, involved Lao PDR, World Bank and IUCN support. She reports [“Listening to Women Fishers on the Sekong River: Fostering Resilience in Village Fishery Co-Management“] that the advent of fisheries comanagement and new national laws and institutions such as the Lao Women’s Union and a flurry of activity, especially after the 1995 UN Beijing  Conference on Women, tended to stay at the national level.

What was happening at the local level along the Sekong, where men fished in the main river and its tributaries and women were seasonal fishers in the rice fields? Following the new national 2009 Guideline for Fisheries Comanagement, several comanagement fishery committees were established to oversee fisheries conservation zones. Elite men tended to be appointed to the committees (by village chiefs), thus cementing the status quo, whereas women, if in the committees, were elected and tended to be challenging the status quo. The national fishery guidelines did not mandate women’s participation.  Generally, the fisheries committees also avoid other difficult issues such as ethnicity, the deteriorating quality of the river water and its fishery resources, and the maintenance of fish conservation zones. Of 6 committees established in 2009 in the study area, the only committee to survive until 2013 was the one that had a woman member (who kept the committee records) and it was also the only one to maintain a conservation zone.

Charlotte Moser laments that, despite the calls to include women, and the good advice available as to how to do this, action on the ground often disappoints, as in this case in Laos. She reiterates the generally recommended steps needed, but does not underestimate their difficulty to implement.

Among these steps are including language in the national Fisheries Law that requires participation by women in village fishery management committees, creating incentives to allow women to develop new skills, ensuring more places in governance structures for women and providing opportunities for adaptive learning tailored to the experiences and interests of women in fishing villages.

Abstract: The accelerated economic development of landlocked Laos, combined with extreme climate variables, points to dramatic transformations in subsistence fisheries on its rivers. In the country’s first Fisheries Law, adopted in 2009, co-management of village fisheries is required as a way to promote sustainable development at a local level. The co-management model, however, does not stipulate participation by women fishers, important stakeholders who make up almost one-half of all Lao fishers and whose work contributes directly to family nutrition and well-being. Based on fieldwork conducted in fishing villages on the Sekong River in southern Laos in 2013, this paper takes an ecosystems approach to discuss how the country can build resilience and social cohesion into fisheries by incorporating women and their knowledge into village fishery management. In the process, the health of river ecosystems and food security will improve, while women fishers will acquire new skills to help them avoid ‘poverty traps.’

Download the paper here

Asian Fisheries Science publishes Special Issue of GAF4 papers

A fishing family in the Pichavaram mangroves, Tamil Nadu, India, taking part in a gendered ecological economics  study by Piyashi DebRoy and colleagues. Photo: Piyashi DebRoy.

A fishing family in the Pichavaram mangroves, Tamil Nadu, India, taking part in a gendered ecological economics study by Piyashi DebRoy and colleagues. Photo: Piyashi DebRoy.

Charting the progress on gender equality in aquaculture and fisheries, this Asian Fisheries Science journal Special Issue gives a reasonably upbeat assessment, despite the huge challenges, especially for women.

Based on the 2013 4th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries (GAF4), Dr Nikita Gopal, the chief Guest Editor, said that “gender is now more firmly on some key policy agendas, is embedded in certain major normative international documents, such as the Small Scale Fisheries Guidelines, and is receiving early institutional, policy and donor support. Attention is also being given to methodological and methods development as more practitioners engage in gender work.” The Guest Editorial, however, points out that gender will not be fully integrated into programs and institutions until agencies face up to implementation challenges such as lack of leadership and resources, and the fish sector recognizes the worth of engendering fisheries. Dr Gopal pointed out that “the current position is still much better than when researchers and activists were still struggling to get gender on the agenda, which was the assessment by experts after the 2011 GAF3 Symposium.”

The Special Issue containing GAF4 papers can be downloaded for free , in total or by individual papers. Click here for the links.

Report recommends integrating fish into food security and nutrition


HLPE-Report-7_Cover-smA new report, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition, has provided probably “the most comprehensive recent attempt to review and synthesize the current knowledge” said Dr Christophe Béné. Dr Béné, of the Institute of Development Studies, chaired the team of the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security that produced the report.

The report recommends that fish need to be fully integrated into all aspects of food security and nutrition policies and programmes. It pays special attention to all dimensions of food security and nutrition and promotes small-scale production and local arrangements, as local markets, e.g. for procuring school meals, and other policy tools, including nutrition education and gender equality.

The report is dedicated to Chandrika Sharma who was one of the peer reviewers of the report.

HLPE Team for fish, food security and nutrition report. Left to right: Gro-Ingunn Hemre, Modadugu V. Gupta, Moenieba Isaacs, Chris Béné, Meryl Williams, Ningsheng Yang and Vincent Gitz (Secretary)

HLPE Team for fish, food security and nutrition report. Left to right: Gro-Ingunn Hemre, Modadugu V. Gupta, Moenieba Isaacs, Chris Béné, Meryl Williams, Ningsheng Yang and Vincent Gitz (Secretary)

Download the report here

Extract of the FOREWORD by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Chair of HLPE Steering Committee

This report addresses a frequently overlooked but extremely important part of world food and nutrition security: the role and importance of fish in seeking food and nutrition security for all. Fisheries and aquaculture have often been arbitrarily separated from other parts of the food and agricultural systems in food security studies, debates and policy-making. I applaud the Committee on World Food Security for its decision to bring fisheries and aquaculture fully into the debate about food and nutrition security.

The report presents a synthesis of existing evidence regarding the complex pathways between fisheries and aquaculture and food and nutrition security, including the environmental, economic and social dimensions, as well as issues related to governance. It provides insights on what needs to be done to achieve sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in order to strengthen their positive impact on food and nutrition security.

The ambition of this compact yet comprehensive report is to help the international community to share and understand the wide spectrum of issues that make fisheries and aquaculture such an important part of efforts to assure food security for all.

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) was created in 2010 to provide the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS) with evidence-based and policy-oriented analysis to underpin policy debates and policy formulation. While specific policy interventions should be based on context-specific understanding, HLPE reports provide evidence relevant to the diversity of contexts, with recommendations aiming to be useful to guide context-specific policy interventions.

The main findings of the report cover the themes:

  • Fish as a critical food source
  • Fish has received little attention in food security and nutrition strategies
  • Risks and pressures affecting the world fisheries
  • Opportunities and challenges in aquaculture
  • Small vs large scale fishing operations
  • Unsettled debates on fish trade
  • Social protection and labour rights
  • Gender equity
  • Governance

In the Executive Summary, the report says the following on Gender Equity (paras 27-29; the body of the report contains more detail)

  • 27. The first comprehensive attempt to estimate the number of fish workers found that 56 million, near half of the 120 million people who work in the capture fisheries sector and its supply chains, are women. This is essentially due to the very high number of female workers engaged in fish processing (including in processing factories) and in (informal) small-scale fish trading operations. However, small-scale fisheries and supply-chain jobs outside production are not well recorded, so the actual number of women may be higher. Comparable estimates are not yet available for the 38 million aquaculture sector workers.
  • 28. Gender, along with intersectional factors (such as economic class, ethnic group, age or religion), is a key determinant of the many different ways by which fisheries and aquaculture affect food security and nutrition outcomes, availability, access, stability and diet adequacy, for the population groups directly involved in fish production and supply chains, but also beyond.
  • 29. Men are dominant in direct production work in fisheries and aquaculture. Much of women’s work, such as gleaning, diving, post-harvest processing and vending, is not recognized or not well recorded, despite its economic and other contributions. Gender disaggregated data are not routinely collected and, partly as a result of this, little policy attention is given to women and to the gender dimension of the sector.

In the Recommendations, item 7 addressed Gender Equity with the following recommendation (7)

States should

  • 7a) Ensure that their aquaculture and fisheries policies and interventions do not create negative impacts on women and encourage gender equality.
  • 7b) Enshrine gender equity in all fisheries rights systems, including licensing and access rights. The definitions of fishing must cover all forms of harvest including the forms typically practised by women and small-scale operators, such as inshore and inland harvesting of invertebrates by hand and the use of very small-scale gear.

Women and children first: Gendered and generational change in small scale fisheries in Canada and Norway

Library and Archives, Canada. 1993 postage stamp.

Library and Archives, Canada. 1993 postage stamp.

Barbara Neis, Siri Gerrard and Nicole G. Power have written a reflective paper on the social-ecological systems of cod (Gadus morhua) fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Norway. Their study revealed similarities but also many differences between the ways small scale fishing communities in the two countries have reacted to changes in the fish stocks and the policies that accompanied the changes.

Their paper, “Women and Children First: the Gendered and Generational Socialecology of Smaller-scale Fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador and Northern  Norway,” draws from the great depth of excellent sociological and gender research over the last decades, including especially their own. It explores the impacts since the late 1980s and early 1990s of the Canadian cod stock collapse and of the introduction of a new type of quota system in the Norwegian part of the Norwegian-Russian cod fishery.

They found that the ecological trajectories were very different in both fisheries – the Canadian cod stock has not recovered, but some other fisheries have prospered in its place, while the Norwegian cod stocks are at a record high. However, policy differences between the two countries resulted in employment decreasing in both countries, with the Norwegian decrease 10% greater than that in the Canadian fishery. Women’s formal engagement in the two fisheries differ, but is generally low, especially in  Norway where they have been less likely to engage in the catching sector. In both places, young people are not entering the fishery, although modest success has been achieved with youth-oriented initiatives in Norway. The age profile of fish-workers is getting older.  Women and  youth face the hurdle of raising sufficient funds to buy boats, licences and quota. The changes are complex and the social and household impacts have emerged in the face of gender and generational blindness in policy-making.

Download the paper here

ABSTRACT. The resilience of small-scale fisheries in developed and developing countries has been used to provide lessons to conventional managers regarding ways to transition toward a social-ecological approach to understanding and managing fisheries. We contribute to the understanding of the relationship between management and the resilience of small-scale fisheries in developed countries by looking at these dynamics in the wake of the shock of stock collapse and fisheries closures in two contexts: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and northern Norway. We revisit and update previous research on the gendered effects of the collapse and closure of the Newfoundland and Labrador northern cod fishery and the closure of the Norwegian cod fishery in the early 1990s and present new research on young people in fisheries communities in both contexts. We argue that post-closure fishery policy and industry responses that focused on downsizing fisheries through professionalization, the introduction of quotas, and other changes ignored the gendered and intergenerational household basis of small-scale fisheries and its relationship to resilience. Data on ongoing gender inequities within these fisheries and on largely failed recruitment of youth to these fisheries suggest they are currently at a tipping-point that, if not addressed, could lead to their virtual disappearance in the near future.